From serving six months for knife possession earlier this year to debuting at number one on UK’s Official Albums Chart, Tottenham’s own Irving Adjei, AKA Headie One, has had a year of polar opposites. Dedicated to his late mother who passed away when Adjei was three years old, EDNA, is his debut album that introduces Headie’s growth as an artist and as a person.
Covering topics from his incarceration, family life, and the power of self-reflection, EDNA tackles Headie’s personal demons and revelations. Songs like the opening track ‘Teach Me’, ‘Psalm 35’, ‘Breathing‘ and ‘Mainstream’ epitomize that process.
To help tell that story is a plethora of guest appearances. North American headliners Drake and Future should have been standout features, but their verses on ‘Only You Freestyle’ and ‘Hear No Evil’ respectively doesn’t match up to the British talent on display.
British Heavyweight Skepta’s trademark punchy rhymes contrasted with Headie One’s unique flow make ‘Try Me’ a standout track and Young T & Bugsey bring light-heartedness on an otherwise heavy album through ‘Princess Cuts’. On ‘Parlez-Vous Anglais’, Headie and Manchester rapper Aitch make for an unlikely but stellar tag-team trading lavish verses. Headie drops clever wordplay spitting “Yo, shorty said “H”, Me and Aitch both lookin’ like H or Aitch?” and flexes french phrases all within a few bars.
The other big single that came out of this album, ‘Ain’t It Different’, includes two verses from big time British rappers AJ Tracey and Stormzy, and is the perfect mix of Headie’s raps about prison and the life he lives now.
The production is a musical hodge-podge of different sounds coming together. ‘Triple Science’ sounds like the standard drill song while ‘Parlez-Vous Anglais’ portrays the refinement of an aristocratic Parisian lifestyle. The Kenny Beats produced ‘F U Pay Me’ is another distinct track compared to the rest with its simple yet complimentary baseline for Headie and Ivorian Doll’s lyrics.
Despite the distinct sounds each song has, Headie’s voice wears on you. The ‘Teach Me’ ad-lib is laced through almost every track and by the time you get to the end of the album it’s repetitive.
EDNA ends off in a truly reflective state with ‘Cold’ as Headie One looks back on the dreams he had as a kid, on the people he has lost in his life and his current lot in life. Although there is no defining moment of clarity in the arc of EDNA, the lyrics “I used to love the trap like it would love me back, I couldn’t wait for the days to say, ‘I’m done with that’” brings a fitting conclusion to an album about discovery.